To me, this is on the higher end of the spectrum of Give Yourself Goosebumps books. The two main storylines are either choosing to open presents from your friends or to play games. The presents storyline is very short and not too interesting. The games storyline give you the illusion of freedom as you can choose to play several different games such as Pin the Tail on the Donkey or Paintball, all with a dark twist, but most end rather abruptly with only one or two choices.
The scavenger hunt game, though, was fleshed-out and rather entertaining. The list contains objects which have double meanings, leaving you to decide how to interpret them. A bit arbitrary maybe, but surprisingly clever for a GYG book. Worth a read.
Scary Birthday to You! is the thirty-ninth Give Yourself Goosebumps book, and by this point it's obvious the series isn't what it once was. The story zigs and zags with abandon, offering no cohesive central narrative. Today is your birthday, and you're excited to host a party attended by several of your friends: Alex, Josh, Mickey, Sarah, and Virginia. Your parents aren't home, and your older brother Brian left the house even though he promised to supervise the party, but you're counting on having fun anyway. That changes when a man in gruesome clown makeup, speaking in a harsh, gravelly voice, shows up at your door, claiming your parents hired him to entertain at the party. Dr. MacDeath looks way scarier than a normal clown—blood drips from the fangs in his mouth—and he shows a predilection for violence. The clown locks you in the house and commands you to proceed with the party, but you and your friends feel more panicked than festive. How will you escape this lunatic?
It's your birthday, so MacDeath allows you some control over the sequence of events. Party games might be fun under ordinary circumstances, but MacDeath has no intention of letting you enjoy yourselves. Playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey unleashes a live "donkey" on your guests, one a lot more dangerous than a typical pack animal. Paintball becomes a lethal contest in which MacDeath pursues you with a gun loaded with acid; a direct hit will be the end of your party and your life. Can you and your friends gang up on your tormentor and beat him at his own ballistic game? Dodgeball isn't much better; MacDeath opens things up by tossing a bomb at you, but a bit of clever thinking can turn the tables on him with surprising ease. The scavenger hunt is the most interesting game you can choose. It gets you out of the house and creates distance from MacDeath, but he only allots one hour to find the objects on his list, and some seem impossible. A mouse's tongue? Blood from a turnip? A murderer's knife? Bones from a graveyard? You balk at collecting these macabre items, but time is running out to win MacDeath's game if you want to bid him a permanent adieu. You'll have to risk your life more than once to gather every item and make it back to the house before time expires, and even if you do, MacDeath still has a nasty trick or two up his sleeve.
Maybe you prefer opening presents over playing games. Dr. MacDeath has brought you three packages of various size, but your friends also gave you gifts. Opening his presents first can be a decent or disastrous experience, depending on if you go for the small, medium, or large package. MacDeath's present could be a mean-spirited prank that traps you in a loop forever, or a pair of tickets to an amusement park called Horror Place. It's odd that the story goes with a generic version of the well-known Horrorland theme park of Goosebumps lore, considering that at the park you come across a puddle of ooze that's referred to as monster blood, another notorious Goosebumps entity. MacDeath's medium-size present contains a human head that demands you find his body, but digging up the neighbor's flowerbed to retrieve it will only bring trouble. Is there any way to quiet the moaning head and defeat MacDeath once you've opened the medium box? You could take a pass on MacDeath's gifts and open ones from your friends instead, but the clown has used his magic to alter their presents in disturbing ways. MacDeath can be beaten with a combination of savvy and luck, but even that won't always free you from his deranged lineup of birthday activities.
With no internal consistency to speak of and almost nothing to surprise the reader, Scary Birthday to You! is among the lesser Give Yourself Goosebumps books. It lacks the quest-like structure and eerie feel of the better episodes in the series, and many endings are so over-the-top that it's hard to take the adventure seriously. I like the story concept, which the right author could have used to thrilling effect, but Scary Birthday to You! is not the book that fans of Escape from the Carnival of Horrors, Beware of the Purple Peanut Butter, or The Curse of the Creeping Coffin will be hoping for. It's an okay read for a lighthearted birthday gathering, but isn't an auspicious addition to the Goosebumps franchise.
This is probably the most bizarre book in this entire series, even compared to ones like #16. The entire concept is extremely strange: basically, a crazed maniac shows up at your birthday party and terrorizes you and your friends. While the book is unusually horrific, what I found most interesting was how pathetic the villain seemed to be; in several threads he simply walks away down the street while in another he simply drives you to a theme-park and disappears. Totally random and weird, though still kind of fun!
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